News

Soldiers Seize Power in Guinea-Bissau, Disrupt Election

A picture taken on March 19, 2012 shows residents walking by the Parliament in Bissau.
A picture taken on March 19, 2012 shows residents walking by the Parliament in Bissau.

Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau have seized control of the capital just hours before campaigning was set to begin for a presidential run-off election. Sources say soldiers grabbed the interim president and the frontrunner presidential candidate, though the two men's whereabouts are unknown.  Residents say a tense calm has returned to the capital.  However deep divisions within the military mean further unrest is still a possibility.

Soldiers in Guinea-Bissau say they seized power late Thursday to prevent Angolan forces from attacking the nation's military.

The Military Command, as the still unidentified coup leaders are calling themselves, released a written statement Friday.  In it, they said they were in possession of a "secret document" which they allege authorizes a foreign military intervention that had been signed by Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior and the interim President Raimundo Pereira.

Soldiers attacked Gomes' house Thursday night after they reportedly took Pereira into custody.

VOA's reporter in Bissau, Lassana Cassama, says a relative calm has returned to the capital Friday; however, soldiers are heavily deployed on the main roads downtown.  The coup has not garnered much popular support, he says, but many residents are afraid to speak publicly, or even leave their homes.

The Military Command is calling on the population to refrain from looting, vandalism or other disruptions to public order after a night of gun and mortar fire.

Soldiers seized TV and radio stations, Gomes' party headquarters and the downtown area. Electricity was cut, and residents, fearful of violence, huddled indoors.

Guinea-Bissau was set to hold a presidential run-off election on April 29.

Gomes emerged as the front-runner after the first round on March 18. He won 49 percent of the vote - just shy of the majority needed to avoid a run-off.

The Africa director at London-based think tank Chatham House, Alex Vines, said Gomes is seen as the so-called "candidate of Angola," which has been involved in military reform efforts in Guinea-Bissau.

"This has created problems inside Guinea-Bissau," he said.  "There have been over recent months increasingly hostile media commentary and sniping of the Angolans that they are partisan, that they are not even-handed.  That is the backstory to these allegations that the Angolans are supporting Mr. Gomes."

Just days before the coup, Angola had announced that it was pulling out a $30-million security sector reform mission to Guinea-Bissau.

Gomes has also pledged to overhaul the nation's large and unruly armed forces, as well as fight rampant drug trafficking on the nation's Atlantic coast.

Vines says many in the military did not want him to win.

"There are parts of the military that don't want reform," he said. "The reform of the Bissau military is an absolutely essential part of stabilizing the country and many have failed previously."

Gomes was to face ex-president, Kumba Yala, in the run-off election.  However, Yala had refused to participate in the second round after alleging that the first round was rigged.

Yala held a press conference Thursday just hours before the coup took place. He warned of "consequences" for anyone who tried to campaign.

Yala has strong ties to the military, which is dominated by his Balanta ethnic group.  The former president had been overthrown by a coup in 2003 after just three tumultuous years in power.

Fierce rivalries between military and political leaders in Guinea Bissau have sparked repeated coups, mutinies and assassinations, as well as a civil war in the late 1990s.  No elected president has finished his mandate since 1994.

Former president Malam Bacai Sanha died in January following a prolonged illness after just two years in power.

Regional bloc ECOWAS has condemned the apparent coup that comes just weeks after soldiers in Mali overthrew that country's democratically elected president.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs